"No..."

"A stalker, then?"

"Wrong again. Hey, why are you assuming that I've got a thing for you?"

"You don't?"

This bitch... She nonchalantly cocked her head in puzzlement and made a confused face! It was a little cute but I'm not buying any of it!

"As if! Even I'm put off by that presumptuous attitude of yours."

"Yes, I was convinced that you liked me," Yukinoshita said without being particularly surprised. Rather, she wore her usual, unchanging cold expression.

Of course, Yukinoshita has a cute face, cute enough that even I, who interacts with no one in this school and has no friends, know of its existence.

She is definitely one of the most beautiful girls in the school.

However, her self-confident behavior is abnormal.

"How were you brought up to be so naïve? Was everyday your birthday? Or was Santa Claus your lover?" If those weren't the case, her mind wouldn't be trapped in this happy-go-lucky delusion.

If she was to continue at this rate, it surely wouldn't be any different from going through a painful experience. She'd better change the way she's going before she passes the point of no return.

It seemed some compassion from within the deep recesses of my mind surfaced. I decided to choose my words carefully and convey the message indirectly.

"Yukinoshita. You're abnormal. You're totally delusional. Get a lobotomy or something."

"Is that you trying to be frank for my own good?" Yukinoshita chuckled and looked in my direction, but her eyes weren't amused - they were scary.

But well I didn't say she was garbage or worthless or anything like that. She could have at least commended me for that. Frankly, if her face wasn't cute, I'm sure I would have hit her.

"Well, considering your low social standing you may perceive me as strange. However, it's only natural that I came to think this way. It's something I derived from experience." Yukinoshita laughed with her shoulders pulled back proudly. The fact that even that kind of gesture could look good on Yukinoshita was a mystery.

"Derived from experience you say...."

She must be alluding to experiences of a romantic kind. It's obvious if you simply consider her appearance.

"You're talking about your super fun school life..." I murmured with a sigh.

"Yes, yes. That's right. It would be correct to say that I'm actually leading quite a peaceful school life." Yukinoshita responded at once. Despite that, for some reason Yukinoshita had a distant look in her eyes and her gaze was directed away from me. Thanks to that I found myself thinking that the gentle curve of the outline of her chin to her neck was beautiful. A piece of information so worthless, I could die.

Upon watching her, I just realized something. Well, if I had just kept my cool I would have noticed it instantly but this natural born stuck up who puts herself on a pedestal couldn't possibly maintain relationships with normal people. Therefore, there's no way she would have something like a peaceful school life.

Maybe I should just go ahead and ask....

"Hey, do you have any friends?" As soon as I said that, Yukinoshita turned her head.

"....Well first explain where the definition of a friend begins and ends."

"Ah, say no more. That's a line somebody with no friends would say."

Take it from me.

Well, in all seriousness, I have no idea what boundaries the term 'friend' would be defined by. I wish someone would just explain to me how a friend differs from an acquaintance. Would someone you see once be a friend and someone you see every day a sibling? Mido faado reshi sorao? Why is that last 'o' the only sound that's not part of the scale? That much was bothering me.

To begin with, there is a fine line between the definition of a friend and an acquaintance. This is especially obvious between girls.

Even people in the same class seem to be ranked and classified as classmates, friends and best friends. In that case, this is about where those differences came from. But I digress.

"Well since I'd imagined you without any friends, it's fine."

"I never said I didn't have any friends. Although, even if I didn't have friends it's not as though that would be disadvantageous in any way."

"Ah yes. You're right. You're right." I quickly said, evading her words as she directed scornful eyes at me.

"What I mean is, why is that even though you're well-liked by everybody, you don't have any friends?" I asked. Yukinoshita appeared slightly miffed. After which, she averted her eyes in displeasure and spoke.

"....You would never understand." Yukinoshita puffed her cheeks a little and looked away.

Well that's because Yukinoshita and I are completely different people and I never know even the tiniest bit about what she's thinking. I find it difficult to understand what she says to me. No matter how hard we try, in the end we would never understand each other.

Although the one thing I could probably understand about Yukinoshita is her loneliness.

"It's not like I don't understand what you're trying to say. Being alone means you can have a great time by yourself. You could even say the belief that one shouldn't be alone is disgusting."

"....."

Yukinoshita just looked at me for a second before she turned her face back to the front and closed her eyes. I could tell she was thinking something even from that gesture.

"Even though you like being alone, having somebody just pour their sympathy on you would be irritating. I totally get you." I said.

"I wonder why you're acting like we're on the same level. It's extremely irritating." Then as if to cover up her irritation, Yukinoshita flipped her hair back.

"Well, although you and I are of a different standard, I suppose we more or less share the same feelings in regards to being alone. Though it's a little vexing." Upon saying it was vexing, Yukinoshita gave a slight self-deprecating smile. It seemed somehow sombre yet calm.

"What do you mean when you say we're of a different standard....I have my own opinion on being a loner. You could pretty much call me the king of the loners. On the other hand, it would be ridiculous to call someone like you a loner."

"What's this....bravely facing your circumstances even though you know it's futile..." Yukinoshita appeared shocked and looked at me with an expression full of amazement.

"Despite being liked by everyone you call yourself a loner. You're a disgrace to lonely people everywhere." I said triumphantly, satisfied with her expression.

However Yukinoshita immediately laughed with a scornful look on her face.

"Well that's a simplistic idea. It seems like you're only capable of simple spinal reflexes, which don't involve your brain. I mean, what do you understand about being liked by people? Oh that's right, you've never experienced it before. Sorry, that was my lack of consideration."

"If you're trying to be considerate then actually continue to be considerate until the end....." Would you call that being superficially polite? She sure is a real bitch.

"So what's it like being popular?" I asked. Yukinoshita closed her eyes as though she was thinking about it a little bit.

After clearing her throat a little, she spoke. "For someone like you, who isn't at all popular, this may be a little unpleasant to hear."

"I'm already fed up so don't worry." I replied. Yukinoshita took a deep breath in response.

I couldn't be more fed up. I certainly had my fill from our little exchange earlier. It was as though I'd just eaten an infinite amount of ramen.

"Since I have always been cute, boys who approached me generally did so because they habored feelings for me."

I give up. It's like she just added an extra two servings of vegetables and a serving of MSG to my ramen. But although I tried to put up a front and acted all confident, I can't just get up and leave now. I steeled myself and waited patiently for her to continue talking.

"I believe it began during my final years of elementary school. Ever since then...." Yukinoshita's expression was different from what it was just previously. It was a little melancholy.

It has been a little over five years now. What the hell does it even feel like to be constantly exposed to feelings of affection from the opposite sex?

Frankly, having been exposed to feelings of disgust from the opposite sex for a little over sixteen years now, I could never comprehend it. Having not even received Valentine's Day chocolates from my own mother, it was a world I couldn't understand. It just seems like she's one of those people who are gleeful cause they're winning at life. Isn't she just making me listen to her fucking brag?

But that's just it, isn't it?

Although it's about as different as a positive vector is from a negative vector in magnitude, it would be harsh to hit her with my honest feelings. It would be like standing naked in the midst of a raging storm. It would be as harsh as persecuting her in the middle of a classroom discussion.

I remember being made to stand in front of the blackboard alone as the rest of the class encircled me while chanting 'Apo-lo-gize! Apo-lo-gize!' in a loud voice as they clapped their hands. It would be a scenario similar to that hellish experience.

...That was seriously a tough experience. It was the first and last time I have ever cried at school.

But I'm all good now.

"Well being liked has gotta be somewhat better than being constantly hated. You're spoiled. Too spoiled." I blurted out after that unpleasant memory just crossed my mind.

Yukinoshita gave a short sigh. It seemed a lot like she was smiling, yet her expression was clearly different.

"It's not as if I have ever wanted to be liked by people though." She asserted and then added only a few more words. "Otherwise, if people genuinely did like me then that would have probably been a good thing."

"Huh?" I unconsciously asked her to repeat what she said after hearing her soft murmur. She turned around to face me wearing a serious expression.

"If you had a friend who was generally popular with girls, what would you think?"

"That's a stupid question. I don't have any friends so I wouldn't need to worry about such a thing." I gave an exceedingly forceful reply. Like a man would. Even if I do say so myself, I was surprised at how I quickly cut in with a reply before she had even finish talking.

It seemed Yukinoshita was also surprised. She was at a loss for words with her mouth hanging open.

".....For a second, I actually thought you said something cool." Yukinoshita gently put a hand on her temple as though she had a headache, and hung her head low. "Think of it as a hypothetical and give me an answer."

"I'd kill him." I didn't know if my quick reply satisfied her or not but Yukinoshita nodded her head knowingly.

"See, wouldn't you try to eliminate that person? Just like a brute that doesn't have any sense. No, they would have even less sense than an animal.....The school I went to had many people like that. Although I believe they were pitiful people who could only ascertain the meaning of their existence by doing those things." Yukinoshita suddenly gave a derisive laugh.

Girls who are hated by girls. A category like that definitely exists. I haven't been going to school for ten years for nothing. It's not like I was at the center of it all but it's something you can understand just by looking at it from the outside. No, it's because I was looking at it from the outside that I was able to understand.

Yukinoshita was most certainly always at the center of it and as a result, without a doubt, she was surrounded by enemies in all directions. For somebody who lives like that, I can imagine the kinds of things she experienced.

"When I was in elementary school, I had my indoor shoes hidden from me about sixty times but fifty of those times were done by girls in my class."

"I'm curious about the other ten times."

"Three of the times were done by boys. Another two times was when the teacher bought them from me. For the remaining five times, a dog had stolen them."

"The percentage of times done by dogs is pretty high."

Something like that was beyond my imagination.

"But that isn't the most shocking part about it."

"I was deliberately ignoring the most shocking part for your sake!"

"Thanks to that, I had to take my indoor shoes home everyday and in the end I even had to take my recorder home too." Yukinoshita said with a wearied expression. Upon seeing her expression, I involuntarily felt some sympathy towards her.

Isn't it because of that? The fact that it's similar to what I experienced. The fact that in elementary school, I felt guilty cause I was in the classroom at an hour nobody would be around just so I could swap the mouthpiece of my recorder.

I was just genuinely feeling sorry for Yukinoshita.

It's true. It's true. Hachiman. Don't. Tell. Lies.

"That must've been tough for you."

"Yes, it was tough. All because I'm cute."

This time it didn't irritate me when I saw Yukinoshita smile in self-deprecation.

"But it can't be helped. Nobody is perfect. They are weak, they have ugly minds and they get jealous easily and try to bring others down. Oddly enough, the more superior you are the harder it is to live in this world. Isn't that just wrong? That's why I'm going to change this world and the people in it." Yukinoshita's eyes were dead serious and harbored a coldness that could burn you like dry ice could.

"Isn't it too insane to be putting all your effort into some extravagant plan?"

"Maybe. But it's considerably better than your plan to dry up, wither away and die....I hate the way that you consider your weakness as a positive." Yukinoshita said and averted her eyes to look outside the window.

Yukinoshita Yukino is a beautiful girl. An infallible truth that even I was forced to acknowledge much to my regret. From the outside she seemed to be irreproachable, with grades that were excellent and faultless. However, her difficult personality is a fatal wound in her character. Such flaws are not cute at all. But there is a reason for her to have sustained that fatal wound.

I don't blindly believe everything that Hiratsuka sensei says but by being someone who has a lot, Yukinoshita has her own miseries.

It certainly wouldn't be hard to hide that by continuing to deceive yourself and those around you. That's what most people in this world do. Just like how people who are good at studying get good grades in an exam and say that it was because they had a lucky guess at what was going to be in the exam. Just like how plain-looking girls who are jealous of beautiful girls assert that their ugliness is determined by how fat they are.

But Yukinoshita doesn't do that.

She would never lie to herself.

It's not like I won't at least commend that attitude of hers. Because we are the same in that way.

As a result of the conversation ending, Yukinoshita looked back down at her paperback book.

As I watched her, a strange feeling suddenly overcame me.

She and I are certainly alike in some way. I found myself thinking that in spite of myself.

The silence in that moment somehow felt nice.

I felt my heart beat a little faster. It was like my heart was saying it wanted to beat faster than the ticking of the second hand and beyond.

Then...

Then she and I....

"Hey, Yukinoshita...If you want, I could be your frie-"

"I'm sorry. That is impossible."

"Whaaaat? But I wasn't even finished!"

Yukinoshita went ahead and flat out rejected me. And on top of that she had this look on her face like she was grossed out.

Yup, this girl isn't cute at all. Romantic comedies and stuff should just go blow up.s a little vexing.

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